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August 14, 2017

Never one to do things by halves, New Jersey has both a state vegetable and a state fruit, the tomato and the blueberry. Actually, to the literalists out there it has two state fruits, since the tomato, as all aggies know, is also a fruit — the edible fruit of Solanum lycopersicum, which belongs to the nightshade family, Solanaceae, as Wikipedia so elegantly puts it. The species originated in Central and South America.

Blueberries were first cultivated in Whitesbog, according to the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council. The crop earned the state a $79.5 million production value in 2014, the last year for which data is available.

That makes the humble blueberry a significant cash crop. Tomatoes (the other state fruit, remember?) earned $52.2 million in 2015. The Garden State ranks No. 7 in the nation for tomato production.

In 2003, fourth graders at Veteran's Memorial Elementary School in Brick campaigned (successfully) to make the blueberry the official state fruit.

That begs the obvious question, how did a fruit wind up the state vegetable? In 2005, members of the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee approved a measure designating the Jersey tomato as the official state vegetable. The rest, as they say, is history.

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